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PROFILE: RUPERT GRINT

Published Date: 12 July 2009

By Martin Hannan

IN THE days after Michael Jackson died, only one showbusiness story was able to even remotely compete for attention with the passing of the King of Pop. The news that Rupert Grint had contracted swine flu had millions of young people around the globe

Surely the lad who plays Harry Potter’s sidekick Ron Weasley on the big screen would not become a deathly hallow as the result of something so unwizardlike as flu?

Had his illness been filmic, Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter would surely have conjured up a spell or a potion to save the loyal and loveable Weasley. In real life, Grint took a few days off filming and recovered completely from what was a mild dose of the virus, so much so that he was able to attend last week’s international premieres of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, the sixth and latest in what will shortly become the most successful series of films in history, outdoing even James Bond in revenue.

If you are one of the apparently few people not to have seen a Harry Potter movie, you will probably be unaware of Grint, who plays Weasley in the series that will end in 2011, when the second half of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows will be released. Author JK Rowling made her final Potter book by far the biggest, so the producers are making two back-to-back movies of it, with the filming presently under way in England.

Taking a break of any kind is highly unusual for Grint and his co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, whose lives have been lived on a constant treadmill of filming and promotion for the films, which began in 2001. Together they form the central trio of Potter, Weasley and Hermione Granger in the series, which is heading for the £5 billion income mark over the summer.

All three have been involved in the Potter films since the outset, and have grown up before the eyes of an ever-increasing audience. The trio were chosen for the roles at the age of ten or 11, and thanks to the runaway Potter phenomenon, all three became millionaires while teenagers. Grint alone is worth between £5m and £9m, depending on whose estimates you believe.

It is helpful, then, that Grint and his two co-stars get on so well. There is no jealousy between them. Yet of the three, most experts believe Grint is the best actor and the one with a real chance of an after-Potter future onscreen. Potter producer David Heyman has spoken of his protege as a “natural” and praised his comedic skills.

Despite having spoken of living in “the bubble” of Harry Potter films, Grint has never sounded overwhelmed or resentful of the fame that has come his way, and he appears to remain grounded, having the good grace to almost swoon when First Lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters visited the film set recently – the family are Potter fans, and Grint immediately became an admirer of hers, saying: “Nothing’s matched this. Everybody was speechless. It’s hard to imagine Gordon Brown having that kind of effect.”

Grint also has an endearing streak of eccentricity. For his first “car”, after passing his driving test in 2007, he purchased a fully equipped working ice-cream van, complete with cheery bells. It later emerged that his childhood ambition had been to own an ice-cream van.

Grint’s ginger hair and open features are not the accoutrements of a classic leading man, but so far he has been content to play supporting roles, in more ways than one. When tragedy struck the coterie of Harry Potter youngsters with the murder of Hogwarts extra Robert Knox at the age of 18, it was Grint who went along to grieve with friends and family at the memorial service.

Back in 2002, while still only 14, he learned of a Harry Potter fan of the same age suffering from leukaemia and he asked to spend a day with Tony Chapman shortly before he died.

In short, Grint appears a pretty normal person for a celebrity, a role he does not fully enjoy – he has tried going out in disguise in the past.

His close-knit family at home in Hertfordshire keep him normal, Grint has said. He is the oldest of five children, two boys and three girls, born to his father Nigel and mother Joanne.

Combining filmmaking, where all the junior cast had supervised lessons, with attending the local secondary school, Grint once got into trouble for failing to complete his homework while on the set of a Harry Potter film. He was given detention, a punishment which may have contributed to his decision to leave school and pursue an acting career at 16.

As well as the Potter films, he has had well-received parts in a coming-of-age film, Driving Lessons, alongside Julie Walters, and in the comedy Thunderpants, while his first role in a thriller will soon be seen with Cherrybomb, set in Ireland.

What is Rupert Grint going to do next? He has developed a clever line in self-deprecation, admitting that in the first few films he was “just reading his lines” and only now is he acting, as he understands it. That’s a trifle disingenuous of Grint as he had acted in amateur productions near his home before Potter came along. A fan of the books and the character of Ron Weasley long before he auditioned for the part, Grint made a big impact on the casting directors by composing hip-hop lyrics to campaign for the role.

From the first Potter film, he made Weasley his own, and critics have pointed out how his acting skills have developed in each film so that he often steals a scene from his co-stars. He has always been comfortable working with such older talents as Dame Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman, and admits to learning much from them as he went along.

Grint still fully enters into the madcap spirit of Rowling’s wizard adventures, however. Last week, for instance, he joked about much “chafing” of his nether regions from sitting on a wizard’s broomstick.

That he and Radcliffe have grown up together and are leaving behind childhood things was evidenced by reports of the pair enjoying a drink in the pub near where they were filming. Theirs is friendly rivalry, Grint losing out to Radcliffe for the title of Best Actor in the 2007 National Movie Awards; but the red-haired one getting his own back by being named as the owner of one of the five best hairstyles in the Brylcreem Awards, with Radcliffe having one of the worst five.

For all his money, Grint admits to that most actorly of personal qualities – insecurity. He was recently quoted as saying: “I don’t know if I’m good enough to have a long career.”

His many fans will happily assure him that he has quite sufficient talent to prosper in the thespian profession, but as he himself says, if things do not work out for Grint as an actor “I’ll always have my ice-cream van.”


Original article found here: TheScotsman | July 12, 2009

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